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Bucs Can't Catch Up to Colts, Fall to 4-7

Despite two touchdown catches by Mike Evans and a more robust rushing attack, the Buccaneers couldn't come back after falling behind the Colts by 10 and ended up with a 27-20 loss in Indianapolis

postgame report

Baker Mayfield threw a pair of touchdown passes to Mike Evans but it wasn't enough to rally the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The 27-20 loss was the Buccaneers' sixth in their last seven games, dropping their overall record to 4-7.

Tampa Bay missed an opportunity to gain a share of first place in the NFC South, as the Atlanta Falcons beat the New Orleans Saints, 24-15 on Sunday to put both of those teams at 5-6. Still, just a game out of first place, the Buccaneers still have one meeting left with those two teams and two against the 1-10 Carolina Panthers.

"We're together as a unit but we've got to stop making silly mistakes," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We work as hard as anybody in the league, if not more. We've seen things a thousand times at this point. The young guys can't make the mistakes they made and we've got to make plays. We still understand where we are. We're trying to get a win. We're not worried about anything else; we're trying to get a win. As crazy as it might sound, we're one game out of first place, but the way we're playing it's got to be turned around. It feels like we're 10 games out but we're one game out and we've got to play better."

Colts QB Gardner Minshew threw for 251 yards and ran for a touchdown, and RB Jonathan Taylor scored twice while rushing for 91 yards. Playing without key defenders Lavonte David and Jamel Dean, the Buccaneers gave up a total of 394 yards, including 155 on the ground. S Antoine Winfield Jr. and CB Carlton Davis each had 10 tackles and Davis added an interception for the Bucs' only takeaway of the game.

"You always miss your starters, but at the same time we had guys that could have made plays," said Bowles. "We messed up in certain areas where he would not have been involved."

Mayfield completed 20 of 30 throws for 199 yards and an interception to go with those two touchdowns. Evans finished with 70 yards and the two scores on six catches, in the process becoming just the 15th player in NFL history to reach 90 career touchdown receptions. The Buccaneers got the ball back one more time with just over two minutes left on the clock but lost it on Samson Ebukam's strip sack. That was the last of the six sacks that Mayfield endured.

RB Rachaad White ran for exactly 100 yards on 15 carries as the Bucs averaged 6.6 yards per carry on their best rushing day of the season.

"We were running the ball well," said Mayfield. "Offensively, we were staying in rhythm. But we're hurting ourselves and it sucks.'

The game started in promising fashion for the Buccaneers, as they took the opening possession all the way down the field to the Colts' one-yard line. However, Mayfield twisted an ankle on a failed first-and-goal sneak, a false start moved the ball back to the five and reserve QB Kyle Trask couldn't get the ball into the end zone. After forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal, the Colts scored the game's next 17 points, including one short-field touchdown following a Mayfield interception. The Buccaneers did draw to within one score before halftime on Mayfield's one-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans following Davis's interception. The Colts missed a chance to pad that lead when Matt Gay's 58-yard field goal try bounced off the left upright as the first half came to an end.

The Colts did get those three points on the opening drive of the second half, which ended in Gay's 36-yard kick, but the Bucs closed the gap to 20-17 early in the third quarter on Evans' second touchdown catch. That came just two plays after Bowles chose to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Colts' 44, with Mayfield hitting Chris Godwin for a gain of 19. However, that's as closed as the Bucs would get as the Colts answered with a long touchdown drive on the next possession, one that also included a successful fourth-down try near midfield. The Bucs got back into the red zone later in the fourth quarter but had to settle for a field goal after a third-down sack of Mayfield.

"We've got to punch it in," said Bowles. "We've got to execute. Whether it's a penalty, whether it's a missed pass, a sack. Parts of the game we look very functional, other parts of the game we don't. We've got to tie that all together if we're going to win any more ballgames."

The Buccaneers got the ball to start the game after a touchback and ran a tunnel screen to Godwin for a quick five yards. After a short four-yard completion to Evans, Mayfield faked a handoff on third-and-one and eventually found TE Cade Otton wide open to the left for a catch-and-run of 24 yards. One run up the middle and one around left tackle by White led to another first down at the Colts' 31. Mayfield took a shot at Evans down the left sideline but it fell incomplete. Two plays later, on third-and-three, Mayfield zipped a quick pass between two defenders to Palmer for a first down at the 20. After two incompletions, Evans made a dazzling leaping catch and came down at the one-yard line to make it first-and-goal. A neutral zone infraction moved the ball a bit clsoer to the goal line but a Mayfield sneak didn't work and he was hurt in the process. Trask came in to relieve him but the Bucs' false started before the ensuing snap. After a short White run, Trask tried to hit Godwin in the back right corner of the end zone but Godwin couldn't quite haul it in. McLaughlin came on to hit a 21-yard field goal to open the scoring.

Two completions out to the left to Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs picked up a quick 20 yards for the Colts and a defensive holding call on Carlton Davis made it first-and-10 at the 50. Three more short completions and a nine-yard run by Taylor got the ball just inside Tampa Bay's red zone but the Colts faced a third-and-10 after Davis broke up a pass intended for Pittman by the right pylon. Tryon-Shoyinka forced the Colts to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Matt Gay by racing around the right tackle and dropping Minshew for a sack of nine yards.

Mayfield came back into the game to start the Bucs' next drive and immediately fired a six-yard strike to Otton on the left sideline. An offsides flag moved the chains, but Mayfield was intercepted by LB Ronnie Harrison on his next throw. Harrison went out of bounds at the Bucs' 41. Two plays later, Minshew hit Pittman up the middle for a gain of 17, followed by a 17-yard tackle-breaking run by Taylor down to the four. Taylor was able to bash it in over left guard on the next play to give the Colts a 10-3 lead with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.

After another touchback, the opening period came to an end on a two-yard loss by White, who ran into DT DeForest Buckner in the backfield. After the two teams switched sides, the Bucs' drive promptly came to an end on a pass tipped at the line and a sack by Samson Ebukam. Jake Camarda boomed a 61-yard punt and Isaiah McKenzie returned it 14 yards to the Colts' 38.

Logan Hall batted Minshew's pass down on first down and Calijah Kancey did the same on second down after chasing the quarterback out of the pocket. Minshew threw on the run to WR Alec Pierce, who was stopped just short of the line to gain. The Colts initially sent out the punting unit, then changed their mind but had to call a timeout after getting into offensive formation. A fake handoff to Taylor allowed Pittman to leak out uncovered to the left and he turned upfield with the catch to get 24 yards to the Bucs' 29. Minshew completed passes of 12 yards to Pittman and 13 to Downs to make it first-and-goal at the two, and three plays later Minshew was able to get past LB Devin White and lunge over the goal line for a 14-point Colts lead.

White put the ball on the turf on an attempted pitch and had to fall on it for a loss of six. A swing pass to White got those six back but his next catch on third-and-10 came up six yards short and the Bucs had to punt again. Camarda's 63-yard punt rolled to a stop at the Colts' eight with 7:22 left in the first half.

Tampa Bay's defense got the stop it needed on the next drive, first forcing a third-and-four before Davis intercepted an errant Minshew pass at the 16-yard line. Rookie TE Payne Durham somehow snatched a Mayfield pass away from a potential interceptor two plays later and lunged down to the one-yard line. On first-and-goal, Mayfield faked a handoff and Evans managed to get wide open for a touchdown completion in the back left corner of the end zone.

The defense followed with another three-and-out, though Winfield couldn't quite hold on to an interception on third down. The resulting punt was fair caught by Deven Thompkins at the Bucs' 22. White found a lane up the left hashmarks and zipped through it for 13 yards on the first play of the drive and Chase Edmonds got 11 more up the middle on the next snap. Blitzing CB Kenny Moore gave the Bucs 15 yards by going low on Mayfield and drawing a roughing-the-passer flag, putting the ball at the Indy 39. Two more White runs made it third-and-four as the two-minute warning arrived. White ran for a first down after the stoppage in play but the play came back on an Aaron Stinnie holding call. Godwin couldn't hold on to a sideline pass that wouldn't have gotten the first done but might have put the Bucs in field goal range, so the punting unit came out. Camarda's kick went into the end zone for a touchback with 1:44 left in the half.

Moss ran right up the gut for 16 yards, and two plays later a short pass to Moss gained nine to the Colts' 47. An incomplete pass stopped the clock with 22 seconds left and Minshew had to throw it away under pressure on second down. Short completions to Downs and Pittman ran the clock down to two seconds and Gay came on to try a 58-yard field. His kick had the distance but bounced off the left upright. That meant the Colts' lead heading into halftime was just seven points.

Indy got the ball to start the second half and Kancey dropped Taylor in the backfield on the first play for a loss of two. Two plays later, on third-and-six, the Bucs blitzed and Minshew was able to thread the needle to TE Will Mallory for a first down at the Colts' 41. A quick slant to Mallory on the next play put the ball in Bucs territory, and Taylor found a seam to get 11 more to the Bucs' 31. Moss ran for another first down at the 21, but the Bucs' defense held there and the Colts sent out Gay for a 36-yard field goal and a 20-10 lead.

Mayfield threw to Godwin on a designed rollout right and Godwin spun away from the first defender to get a total of 24 yards on first down. Two White runs gained a total of 14 yards and made it first-and-10 at the Colts' 40. A sack for seven yards and a dropped pass by WR Trey Palmer sucked the momentum out of the drive, however, and the Bucs elected to punt from the 41. The ball went into the end zone for a touchback.

Minshew threw over a blitz on second down to get the ball to Downs at the 32 for a first down. Moss found room to run wide around left tackle on the next snap and got 13 yards to the Indy 45. After getting another first down on two runs, the Colts fell into a third-and-six at the Bucs' 40. After Minshew's third-down pass landed at Downs' feet, the Colts left their offense on the field and went for it. Minshew threw in Downs' direction again but S Dee Delaney closed fast to break up the play.

That turned the ball over on downs to the Bucs' offense, which found itself in a third-and-eight after an unsuccessful Mayfield scramble on second down. However, Mayfield took off again on third down and lowered his shoulder into S Julian Blackmon to finish a 14-yard run for a frist down at the Colts' 44 as the third quarter came to a close. Unfortunately, the fourth quarter started with a pass to Palmer for no yards and a pair of incompletions and the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-10 and Mayfield fit a deep out pass between two defenders to Godwin for a drive-saving 19-yard gain. Two plays later, Mayfield faked a handoff and rolled left before lobbing a perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to Evans. The extra point made it a three-point game with 13 minutes to go.

Minshew got the Colts' ensuing drive going with a 16-yard to Pittman over the middle, but a holding call pushed the offense back to the 32. Two completions got the Colts back to a third-and-six and Minshew then scrambled for clsoe to the needed yardage. He did come up about a foot short, so the Colts went for it again on fourth down from the Bucs' 49. Minshew faked a handoff and hid the ball for a moment before tossing over the top to TE Mo Alie-Cox, who had leaked out and was wide open behind all the defenders. LB SirVocea Dennis managed to run him down at the 19-yard line. Taylor then bashed down to the 11 on one carry and down to the one on the next. Taylor then finished the job bu bowling backward over a defender into the end zone on first-and-goal.

The Bucs' next drive quickly reached a third-and-two but White found wide-open space running around right end and was able to break free for a 38-yard gain. Mayfield then hooked up with a 15-yard completion down to the six before absorbing a six-yard sack. After a short completion to Otton, Mayfield found the pocket collapsing and tried to escape up the middle but was sacked for a loss of one by Kwity Paye. Needing two scores, the Bucs sent out McLaughlin for a 24-yard field goal that made the score 27-20 with 4:10 left in regulation.

The Colts' next drive began with a holding penalty and an incompletion before Kancey dropped Minshew for a three-yard sack. Indy handed off to Taylor on third-and-23 to keep the clock moving, then punted after Taylor's 12-yard gain. The punt was downed at Tampa Bay's 35 with 2:21 left.

After a seven-yard catch by Palmer, the Bucs gave five of them back on an illegal shift penalty as the two-minute warning arrived. After a four-yard White run, Ebukam swatted the ball out of Mayfield's hand on third down and Dayo Odeyingbo recovered at the Bucs' 38.

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